5 Best Bearded Dragon Substrates (2020) | Buying Guide and Reviews

by Julia Lopez | Last Updated: August 21, 2020
Best Bearded Dragon Substrates

In setting up your new pet’s home, there are a lot of things that have to be put in place so as to make the new home as comfortable and as close as possible to what is obtainable in the wild.

This includes the use of basking lights, decorations, and also substrates. In this guide, we will focus more on the best bearded dragon substrates available in the market.

Substrates are placed at the bottom of your bearded dragon’s enclosure. They are not only used for bearded dragons but also for other reptiles too.

Placing a substrate at the bottom means that your beardie is in contact with the substrate and not the enclosure making it easier and more comfortable for your beardie to walk on.

Apart from making the enclosure comfier, it also helps in regulating the humidity levels of the enclosure.

Substrates can even go as far as controlling the odor of your pet’s enclosure and so it is a very important decision you have to make when choosing a substrate.

As there are a lot of options available for you, it can be overwhelming for you to make a choice.

Not to worry as we have got you covered and will let you in on the best choices you can make, and what you have to look out for when buying a substrate.

We Recommend

After seeing numerous bearded dragon substrates, we have a pretty solid idea of what characteristics make the best bearded dragon substrate, and the Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend it’s our top choice.

Complete Guide for the Best Bearded Dragon Substrate

Apart from the use of substrate to make your pet’s enclosure look better and as close to its natural home as possible, it also serves many important functions.

The use of a substrate is more comfortable for your bearded dragon to walk on. Walking directly on the floor of the enclosure could be hurtful to their delicate feet and they do not find it very pleasant.

The feel of a substrate is much more like that of their natural home and it also helps to file their nails short.

Substrates can be helpful  in regulating the heat of your pet’s enclosure. It does this by trapping the excess heat during hot weather, and releasing it when the temperature drops.

Doing this helps to ensure that the temperature of the enclosure remains fairly constant.

Apart from heat regulation, it can also regulate the humidity of the enclosure.

Soaking the substrate in water within acceptable limits will make the surrounding air filled with water vapor at all times.

Be careful however not to flood the substrate or put too much water in it as it could lead to infection.

The presence of a substrate captivates the attention of your beardie and so it could play with it when bored.

Some substrates also have the ability to help control the odor in the enclosure as they are treated with special enzymes.

Types of Substrate

Sand and Sand like Substrate

In the wild, bearded dragons walk mostly on the sand and small rocks so you may be tempted to go for this as the best type of substrate.

This is, of course, a risky choice as it could lead to impaction if the sand or pebbles get ingested by your bearded dragon. It is a serious condition and can cause the death of your pet if allowed.

If a sand-like substrate must be used, then the best option would be to make use of calcium sand.

This is based on the theory that calcium-based sand can be metabolized by your pet and so if accidentally swallowed will cause no impaction.

Ceramic Tiles Lining

This type of substrate is new and gaining popularity fast. You can make use of tiles for bathrooms and kitchens and give your pet’s enclosure a great look.

They are easy to clean, no risk of accidental ingestion and impaction, and no excessive rise in humidity.

Newspaper Lining

This is the most affordable option for those on a budget as you can make do with an old newspaper in your home.

There is no risk of possible impaction and your bearded dragon’s claws will not get stuck on anything. The downside to this type of substrate is that it doesn’t make the enclosure look neat and tidy.

If you want to make use of a newspaper substrate nonetheless, there are processed ones that look better and are available for purchase.

Terrarium Carpets

These are also referred to as cage liners. They are mostly made of synthetic material with the appearance of grass or the floor of the desert.

They are easily installed and the risk of accidental ingestion and resultant impaction is not a thing to worry about.

Even though the chances of impaction are low, loops of the liner could get caught up in the claws of your beardie and a possible reaction from your pet is the sharp pulling of their foot.

Often times it leads to the rip off of the claw and the wound can be very painful and will get infected.

You can avoid this if you choose carefully and purchase a cage liner with a tight weave.

Bark and Mulch Lining

Bark and mulch are a type of substrates that are good enough for use with other types of pets but are not a good choice for use with bearded dragons.

This is because they retain a lot of water and can cause infection.

The 5 Top-Rated Bearded Dragon Substrates

Editor’s Picks



Top Pick

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend


Runner Up

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding


Best Budget Buy

Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner


Best Clay Burrowing Substrate

Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate


Best Natural Terrarium Sand

Zoo Med ReptiSand Desert White


*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Best Bearded Dragon Substrate

1. Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend

First on our list of best bearded dragon substrate is this Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend.

It is a great option if you desire to replicate the natural home of your pet beardie as it is made of processed walnut shells.

The look of the finished product when placed on the floor of your pet’s enclosure gives it a look of desert habitat and it encourages burrowing.

All you have to do is fill it up to 2 inches to allow for digging. It satisfies the criteria of retaining heat and so can keep your pet warm even in low temperatures.

It is different from natural sand as it won’t scratch the glass of your pet’s tank. It is recommended that you replace this once every month so you can make use of it for a long time.

Its constituents are all-natural and so it is safe and can be used as manure.



2. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Made from cypress mulch, this substrate provides good comfort for your pet as it is soft and gentle on its feet.

It is a good absorbent and can effectively retain good levels of humidity within the enclosure.

With this substrate, you can replicate the natural forest floor look in the enclosure and have your pet feeling at home.

It doesn’t cause the growth of mold or cause stain on your pet’s skin so it is safe for use.

You can also use this with many species of reptiles and amphibians so if you have other pets, there is no need to have a separate substrate for them.



3. Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner

The Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner is the best choice if you need a product that is cheap and low maintenance.

You can cut it from its roll into the exact size you need so you can cover up every corner without having any waste.

The material used in construction is comfy and won’t hurt your pet’s feet.

It is also great with odor control and so even though it is a good absorbent, you have nothing to worry about.

Your pet’s enclosure can stay clean with ease as all you have to do to clean is to rinse off with cold water regularly without any reduction in its performance.

Young beardies can enjoy this too as it can’t be ingested so there is no room for impaction making it safe for use.



4. Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate

Bearded dragons are more of burrowers than arboreal, so with this substrate, you can induce the burrowing behavior in your pet.

The tunnels your bearded dragon make won’t collapse as this substrate is made of clay and it feels very much like home.

You can trust your pet with this product as it is completely natural and free from chemicals and other additives.

If properly installed, you will not have to worry about your beardie ingesting it so your pet stays safe.



5. Zoo Med Reptisand Desert White

We will end this product review on the best bearded dragon substrate with the Zoo Med Reptisand Desert White.

It is pure and fine sand that has been processed to reduce the chances of any dust being created.

Your bearded dragon can easily burrow in this substrate and it allows your pet to feel more at home.

There are no artificial additives in this product so it is safe for use with your pet.

Being a good heat conductor, it helps with good temperature regulation in your pet’s enclosure. It also helps you save costs as you can clean and reuse the sand.



Things to Look Out For In a Good Bearded Dragon Substrate

In making the right choice from amongst the many substrates that are available in the market, you have to take these factors into consideration:

  1. Loose Substrate Or Carpet Substrate – Before choosing you to have to make up your mind on the type of substrate you want to purchase. Loose substrates are the best of you want to create a home away from home for your pet. They are however a risk as they could be accidentally ingested and may not be right for use with younger beardies. Carpets also have the tendency of causing injuries to the claws of your pet so a better option would be to make use of both.
  2. Safe – When choosing a substrate, look out for the one that is completely natural and has no harmful additives to make it more eye-catching.
  3. Ease Of Cleaning – Go for a substrate that you can clean easily because the hygiene of your pet’s enclosure is very important. It will help with odor control and prevent infections.
  4. Durability – The more you replace the substrate, the more money you will spend over time. So go for a substrate that you can maintain for a good period of time, and that is good enough to last for long before requiring changing.
  5. Humidity And Temperature Control – Substrates are also good at regulating the humidity and temperature of the enclosure. So to make your pet more comfortable in its home, choose a substrate that will maintain the humidity at safe levels, and give off absorbed heat when necessary.
  6. Control Odor – Some substrates are treated to be efficient in controlling the odor of your pet’s enclosure. This will make the cage more habitable and so you should look out for this feature before you make a purchase.

Commonly Asked Questions About Bearded Dragon Substrates

Q: Is Sand A Good Substrate For Bearded Dragon?

Sand is a commonly used substrate for bearded dragons as it makes them feel close to their natural home. It is, however, dangerous as there is a high chance of accidental ingestion which could lead to gut impaction and even death.

Q: How Often Should I Mist My Bearded Dragon?

When your beardie is shedding and during winter, it is important that you mist your bearded dragon and its enclosure a few times each week.

Q: Is Coconut Substrate Good For Bearded Dragons?

Coconut fiber is a good choice of a substrate as it easy to clean and it also looks good in the enclosure. It also makes your pet feel at home.


Setting up your pet dragon’s home has to be done right so that you will have a happy and comfortable pet.

This can be achieved if you make use of the right products and it includes the best bearded dragon substrates.

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend is a good product if you want to create a natural environment for your bearded dragon. It conducts heat and is also good for burrowing activities. 

Another great choice is the Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding. It is soft, creates the natural forest floor look in your pet’s enclosure, and is a great product to control humidity with. 

No matter your choice from amongst then products reviewed here, you can be sure of making a purchase your reptile buddy will be happy with.